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Maria Theresa thaler


The Maria Theresa thaler (MTT) is a silver bullion-coin that has been used in world trade continuously since it was first minted as a thaler in 1741. It was named after Empress Maria Theresa, who ruled Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia from 1740 to 1780.

Since 1780, the coin has always been dated 1780 and has been struck by the following mints: Birmingham, Bombay, Brussels, London, Paris, Rome and Utrecht, in addition to the Habsburg mints in Hall, Günzburg, Kremnica, Karlsburg, Milan, Prague and Vienna. Between 1751 and 2000, some 389 million were minted. These different mints distinguished their printings by slight alterations to the saltire, or "flower" symbol, which looks like an "X" at the top left of the reverse side of the coin. In 1946, the Vienna Mint rescinded any rights of foreign governments to issue such copies; subsequently, the Vienna Mint has produced over 49 million MTTs.

It was one of the first coins used in the United States and probably contributed (along with the Spanish eight-bit dollar) to the choice of a dollar as the main unit of currency for the United States.



The thaler is 39.5 mm in diameter and 2.5mm thick, weighs 28.0668 grams and contains 23.3890 grams (0.752 troy ounces) of fine silver. It has a millesimal fineness of .833.

In German-speaking countries, following a spelling reform dated 1901 which took effect two years later, "Thaler" is written "Taler" (although the spelling of "Theresia" was not affected because of Greek origin). Hence 20th-century references to this coin in German and Austrian sources are found under "Maria-Theresien-Taler". The spelling in English-speaking countries was not affected.

The inscription on the obverse of this coin is in Latin: "M. THERESIA D. G. R. IMP. HU. BO. REG." The Reverse reads "ARCHID. AVST. DUX BURG. CO. TYR. 1780 X". It is an abbreviation of "Maria Theresia, Dei Gratia Romanorum Imperatrix, Hungariae Bohemiaeque Regina, Archidux Austriae, Dux Burgundiae, Comes Tyrolis. 1780 X", which means, "Maria Theresa, by the grace of God, Empress of the Romans, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, Archduchess of Austria, Duchess of Burgundy, Countess of Tyrol. 1780". The "X" is actually a saltire, and was added after 1750 denoting Maria Theresia's reign over the Austrian Netherlands. Around the rim of the coin is the motto of her reign: "Iustitia et Clementia", meaning "Justice and Clemency".

In Ethiopia

From the reign of Emperor Iyasu II of Ethiopia (1730-1755), the MTT is first recorded as circulated in Ethiopia.[1] According to traveller James Bruce the coin, not debased as other currencies, dominated the areas he visited in 1768. Joseph Kalmer and Ludwig Hyun in the book Abessinien[2] estimate that over 20% of 245 million coins minted until 1931 ended up in Abyssinia. In 1868, the British military expedition to Magdala, the capital of Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia, under Field Marshal Robert Napier, took MTTs with them to pay local expenses. In 1890 the Italians introduced the Tallero Eritreo, styled after the MTT, in their new colony Eritrea, also hoping to impose it on the commerce with Ethiopia. They remained, however, largely unsuccessful. In the early 1900s Menelik II unsuccessfully attempted to mint Menilek thalers, with his effigy, but styled following the model of the MTT, locally and force their use. The newly established Bank of Abyssinia also issued banknotes denominated in thalers. Starting in 1935 the Italians minted the MTT at the mint in Rome for use in their conquest of Ethiopia.[3] Then during World War II, the British minted some 18 million MTTs in Bombay to use in their campaign to drive the Italians out of Ethiopia.[4]

The Maria Theresa thaler was also formerly the currency of Muscat and Oman. The coin remains popular in North Africa and the Middle East to this day in its original form: silver coin with a portrait of the buxom Empress on the front and the Habsburg Double Eagle on the back. It is said that the low-cut gown she wears has added to the popularity of the coin[citation needed].


  1. ^ Richard Pankhurst, Economic History of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa: Haile Selassie I University, 1968), p. 468.
  2. ^ Kalmer, Joseph; Hyun L. (1935). Abessinien (in German, Czech translation by Milena Jesenská used). “Chapter 13 describes currencies used in pre-WWII Abyssinia.” 
  3. ^ Tschoegl, Adrian E. (2001). Maria Theresa’s Thaler: A Case of International Money. Eastern Economic Journal 27 (4): 445-464.
  4. ^ Tschoegl, Adrian E. (2001). Maria Theresa’s Thaler: A Case of International Money. Eastern Economic Journal 27 (4): 445-464.

Further reading

  • Clare Semple - A Silver Legend: The Story of the Maria Theresa Thaler (Barzan Publishing, 2006) ISBN 0-9549701-0-1
  • Adrian E. Tschoegl. (2001). Maria Theresa’s Thaler: A Case of International Money. Eastern Economic Journal 27 (4): 445-464.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Maria_Theresa_thaler". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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